I Was a Stranger

Matthew 25:35b

. . . I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

Yesterday was a strange day!  John and I are vacationing on a Caribbean Cruise and yesterday we visited Barbados.  It was supposed to be a quick day of shopping for gifts in the morning and then back to our ship, the MS Maasdam, for a swim and maybe a nap.  It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.  I hope you noticed I said “supposed to,” what happened was an adventure we never counted on and the discovery of being welcomed despite being a stranger in a strange land.

First of all you should know that John has developed a case of hay fever every time we reach shore; there is some type of plant bugging him so he needed more antihistamines.  So we get off the ship and head for the shuttles into the shopping district of Bridgetown.  After I paid the driver we got in and headed for town.  When we reach our destination John spots a pharmacy and we go in to get some Benadryl for his hay fever. And this when our day went wonky, as we are paying for it I discover I have lost my wallet. 

Do you know the sinking feeling you get when something goes terribly wrong and you are placed in very vulnerable position?  Well I never got that feeling.  I told John my wallet was gone along with my credit card, driver’s license and some money and all I said was “well that’s gone, do you still want to go shopping.”   I never expected to see the wallet again, I mean we are in the Caribbean which is not known for having the most honest population in the world, and these people are all poor and struggling.  While I would miss the $80, it loss wouldn’t kill me and my credit card would be turned off within the next couple of hours so that wasn’t that big a deal.  But to someone who probably makes less in a year than most people in the US make in a month that’s a lot of money and the card invaluable.  But for some reason I wasn’t the least bit worried. I was simply a little irritated about the trouble it would take to contact VISA

John suggests we go back to the drop off point and wait for the taxi to return, which the guy  would do simply as part of his route between the port and downtown.  As we sat under a tree, a man comes forward and asks if we would like to take a tour of the Island and we said “no we were waiting for the taxi that dropped us off.”  The man, whose name was Eric, asked us if we had lost a wallet, surprised, we said yes and asked how he knew.  Eric said the driver did find it and had looked all over for us but we had disappeared.  Eric told us that my wallet would be with the port police when we returned.  Eric told us to get into his tour van and he took us straight back to the port to retrieve my wallet and when we got there it was intact; cards and money all in place.  To thank the shuttle driver we gave him a large tip and to thank Eric we told him that we would like to take his tour.  So we and another couple who were just walking up got in and had the most wonderful morning going all around the Island of Barbados, which is really quite small, I think Eric said it was only about 150 sq miles, 14 miles wide and 17 miles long. 

We discovered that the couple, George and Marion, were also from Washington State, Port Ludlow to be exact, and we had a lot in common.  Eric told us he had two children, a boy and girl, and that he had lived in Bridgetown all of his life.  We saw Orchids at the Orchid Garden which was beautiful.  The Orchids were incredible but more than that it was simply a beautiful botanical garden with wonderful views of the farms in the center of the Island.  We stopped at Bats Hill beach where we wadded in the water and got silly as we picked up coral rock.  We saw a troop of monkeys with young ones trailing along.  The little ones apparently knew we had a camera because they immediately started jumping, running and falling over each other in their efforts to show off.  Actually they weren’t all that different from some other little ones I know.  After nearly 3 hours we returned to the port and our staterooms tired and trying to make sense of our amazing morning adventure.  What could have been a disaster turned into a time of welcoming and communion. 

So often we expect the worst of people and such self-fulfilling prophecies often come true, we get what we expect.  Yesterday I learned a valuable lesson that people everywhere are good, honest and hardworking, offering up kindness unlooked-for, resulting in lives touching each other in amazing ways that wouldn’t have happened any other way. 

In our interpretation of Mathew 25:35 we most often think of ourselves as being the ones doing the welcoming, or the delivering of kindness. We most often forget that receiving the welcome and generosity of another is a grace filled gift that opens our hearts as much as being the donor.   Yesterday I was the stranger in need and I was blessed with the gift of welcome and the company of new friends. 

I am not one who believes in coincidence but I do believe accidents are used by the Holy Spirit to touch people with grace and forgiveness in ways that could not happen any other way.  I accidentally dropped my wallet in a cab and as a result the lives of 5 people crossed and touched each other for reasons only the Holy Spirit knows.  The result for us was an adventure and lives briefly touching and gracing each other with friendship and charity.

Yesterday I was the stranger and the recipient; maybe tomorrow I will be the donor of the grace of welcome either way both offer grace, blessings and life to the recipients and receiver.    May all of you be blessed with the receiving or offering of the gift of welcome.

Ruth Jewell ©December 17, 2012


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